Marc Benioff heralds Web 3.0 at DreamForce Europe

Salesforce.com Marc Benioff has chosen the company's first DreamForce Europe event in London today to unveil a new definition of Web 3.0 that ties it to the vendor's platform-as-a-service message
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

Salesforce.com has come to London today for its first DreamForce Europe event. There have been European customer and partner events in previous years, but this is the first event at true DreamForce scale — 2,500 attendees at the Barbican conference center in the heart of the City, London's financial district. And it has one of Marc Benioff's hallmark two-and-a-half-hour marathon keynotes, familiar to DreamForce regulars [disclosure: Salesforce.com is a recent client].

Benioff has chosen London to unveil a new definition of Web 3.0 (a favorite theme of my own) that ties it to Salesforce.com's platform-as-a-service message.

Where Web 1.0 was about consumer applications that gave people access and Web 2.0 enabled people to publish their own user generated content, Web 3.0 is about empowering people to innovate using Web-hosted infrastructure, he explains.

"We think Web 3.0 is now upon us. It's the era of platforms," declares Benioff, citing his own company's Force.com, along with Google App Engine, Amazon Web Services and Facebook as examples. "New platforms are coming right out of the cloud. It's time to make a choice. You can continue to build your applications in the software model or you can move your applications to the new model of cloud computing. There is a new way to build your applications."

One of the most striking aspects of Benioff's new message is that it's no longer about trying to get everyone using Salesforce.com's platform. Showing a slide with logos from 21 different PaaS providers, he acknowledges the emerging diversity of the PaaS landscape: "The hallmark of all these platforms of a service is that different ones serve different markets and different developers." Facebook serves the consumer, Amazon targets LAMP stack developers, Google App Engine is for Python developers, while Force.com serves the enterprise market, he explains.

This is a marked change from the old paradigm exemplified by Microsoft, whose success has been predicated on grabbing a near-monopoly with its Windows desktop platform. In stark contrast, as Benioff goes on to point out, on the Web it's easy to combine platforms, for example mashing up Facebook and Force.com functionality. "Unlike the old platforms where you had to choose which one to get locked into, you have a lot more flexibiity and a lot more freedom," he says.

Having established that PaaS is a diverse industry rather than a single-company monopoly, Benioff must be relieved to be able to cite independent confirmation of his company's leadership of the sector. Just in the nick of time, it turns out that industry analyst Gartner has just published a new Application Server Magic Quadrant report, which includes Force.com as its first ever PaaS participant (Gartner by the way uses the term APaaS, which stands for application platform as a service). "Force.com is well ahead of all the major players," says the report, "as well as in mind share, forcing most competitors to catch up."

To reinforce that message, UK financials software CODA today at Dreamforce.com is launching CODA2Go, an enterprise financials application built on the Force.com platform, which CEO Jeremy Roche demonstrated on stage as the keynote drew to a close. I spoke to Roche earlier and will be writing more about its decision to develop on Force.com in a separate posting later on.

I'll close here with a few new metrics about Salesforce.com in Europe that Benioff cited in his presentation. 7,000 of the vendor's 41,000 customers are in Europe, Benioff said, and annualized revenues in Europe are running above $150 million (out of $850 million worldwide). The largest customer in Europe is Misys with 57,500 subscribers. And to encourage start-up ISVs to develop on the Force.com platform, UK based venture capital investor Eden Ventures has announced a competition today to win up to £1 million (around $2 million) in funding.

One other interesting slide I haven't seen in US presentations was one claiming green credentials, stating that the effect of 41,000 customers using Salesforce.com instead of their own server infrastructure meant a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to 4,000 fewer cars on the road. It was just one more element in a distinctly European flavor to the event.

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